When Aderonke Aina Scott left her plum job as head of design and production at Fidelity Bank, many of her colleagues were surprised, but she knew that the only way to go, at that time, was to be self-employed. Her passion for the arts was her driving force.
Having gone through many challenges, Aderonke sits atop the management of a thriving art gallery, RonkeScott Art Gallery, Ikorodu. In this interview, she tells Daily Sun the story of her transition.
How did you transform from banker to gallery owner?
The journey to success has never been straight. It is full of challenges. The moment I tried to move on with arts, I met a big disappointment, which shook me. It had to do with my job at the bank.
My health issue came up. I had fibroid and I went for surgery. Prior to that time, I had always had some health challenges.
On the career path, we had change of management at Fidelity Bank and most of us working with the former managing director were laid off. I had foreseen it earlier because, when you are working for somebody, there is really no job guarantee except with the one you do for yourself. After that, I thought of what next to do. Meanwhile, I had wanted to move on with art as what I was passionate about, but I had a big disappointment.
I looked around after I left the bank, wondering what else I could do because I felt I needed time for my children. I realised my passion for flowers. I decided to make a business out of it. I ventured into it with all heart. I started to build on it. It was therapeutic for me. Yet, I saw the trait slipping out of me. It was either I did that or take care of my children full-time, or I would go into the studio in my house to start painting. That was how I went into horticulture as a business and it was a good thing for me while it lasted.
When did you return to visual art practice?
It was in 2018, after a three-year break. I stopped painting because it was a traumatic period for me. I thank God for friends and colleagues who kept pushing me. But for a woman, it is not easy to combine art with family, unless you really have the tenacity and inner will to say no.
I felt I wasn’t going to continue with it because it was not easy to do it while raising children and taking care of the family. And in art, you don’t start getting aid immediately. The harsh economic situation hasn’t also helped artists.
In 2018, I got a call from one of my friends that said that U.S. Embassy wanted somebody to hold an exhibition regarding an event, I cannot remember, I didn’t have enough fund and the notice was too short but I saw it as a wakeup call. I told myself that there was still something in visual art for me.
Another friend who owned a gallery called me for the African Women Entrepreneurship programme, an initiative of Hillary Clinton, where we were to come and help empower African women, and I did. She thought of my case and encouraged me to come and exhibit, since it had been long I had an exhibition.
It was tough for me. Prior to that time, I had become complacent due to lack of practice. I believe God has created artists in a peculiar way, I don’t know whether to call it inspiration. I just believe that there is a spirit that comes upon artists. Sometimes, when I look at some of the works I did in 2014, I can’t remember how I got them. It is difficult to say how I achieved it.
While you were working as a florist, at what point did you think of setting up a gallery in Ikorodu, instead of an elitist place like Victoria Island?
Floral and arts are interwoven. There is an interjection, which means that there is a point where art and horticulture meet, because both have to do with nature.
In Ikorodu, where I live, there is no gallery and I know that there are people that love art there. It is also the culture base for Lagos. So, I went for it.
Although Victoria Island and Ikeja have rich people but, sometimes, your client would come for you wherever you are, if you are good. I have made a lot of sales both online and offline and I have more keen customers. It has not been easy, though. We have just started but I know that, as we begin to create awareness, get funding, we would have more people patronising us, the art would be known, and Ikorodu would be known for art.
With the narration about unalloyed attention for your family, would it be right to say that you belong to the womanism, instead of feminism, movement?
What I believe is that, if a woman is good, the family would be good.
The woman has so much influence on how the family turns out. I also believe that children are the future of the nation. They will outlive us and whatever sacrifices you make for your children are worth it. I need to pour myself into my children and create more time for them because, at that age, they need to be moulded.
That was what banking took from me and I did not want to make a mistake again looking for an 8-to-5pm job. I wanted something that would afford me time for my family.
How did your foray into the media and banking influence your work in the gallery?
My experiences were of immense benefit to me. They prepared me for my future endeavours.
Gradually we are becoming a brand and social media marketing is very vital in today’s world. You cannot be an artist and shut yourself out of the global space. You must strive to influence people and have your own community. Art has the power to change things.
Even in medicine, publishing and fashion, art influences them. There are things we can develop and put Nigeria and West Africa on the international map if only we can look inwards. Why is it difficult for schools to have Ankara as school uniform? These are what we produce in Nigeria. If like 30 schools patronise local fabrics, don’t you think we will keep that industry alive and put food on a lot of tables, instead of importing this or that into the country? Now that they have closed the borders, have we died? Are we not living? Are we not satisfied with the local rice we have in the market? Are we eating it? We just need to think.
What was it like between when you had to depend on the bank for your income and today when you have to depend on your imagination and creativity to pay your bills?
It has not been a walk in the park but resilience and working hard are the keys that have paid off for me.
The experiences I got from the corporate world have helped me a lot too.
There are some fundamentals, which you need to put in place, for you to be able to make a break. If these things are not in place, then you would not be able to exist.
I have to pay a social media professional to help me about social media because I know I have to be on the platform. These are some of the things I learnt from the corporate world. And not all artists believe they have to be on the social media, not just being there, but also being there to project your brand, do research and be awake to developments within your industry.
What is your impression about artists’ representation by a gallery in auction market?
In Ronkescott Art Gallery, we represent artists. I don’t display only my works in my gallery. There are quite a number of artists we have their works domiciled in my gallery; even sculptors. Their sculptures are here. Though we just started but, gradually, there are plans to have auctions in our gallery.
One of the things we want to do is to create art awareness in Ikorodu community. It is a relatively new community where art is still developing. I believe that, with time, auctions and everything other galleries are doing, even residencies, workshops and seminars, will begin to take place. It is my vision that the gallery will be an umbrella for every artist.
Nigeria is blessed with talents. What would you tell untapped talents in Ikorodu?
We all have one thing or the other hanging over our heads and that is fear. It is real because a lot of people either grow up with beliefs that they cannot make it.
But we tell them that it is easy. It may be a bit difficult but, if you just continue, you will find out that it is possible. A lot of people need encouragement. The economy is not helping but, at the same time, that is why we are Nigerians and blacks. We don’t give up. You must continue strive for the best because there is always light at the end of the tunnel. It has happened to me severally, when I do designs, maybe a graphic design for a client, I may be exhausted after the first one to four designs yet the idea would still be in my head but tiredness has set in. And my spirit would tell me to do the fifth one I have in my head, the client will end up picking the fifth concept. So, what if I had given up on two or three concepts? There is no room to give up. We have one life to live and that is one of the things that push and motivate me.
You are one of those who believe in our culture as epitomized in some of your bodies of works. What is the impression about our cultural policy?
I think Lagos State government is trying, though it can still do more.
I know every Wednesday is recognized as our cultural day, where civil servants, teachers and pupils are allowed to wear our traditional regalia. However, we need to support art because it has a way of bringing the limelight on a particular community, and the country.
In Mexico, they celebrate their diverse cultures. In South Africa, they have similar things for where artists and craft people converge from all over the world in international trading of ideas.
We can have cultural villages where people can teach arts and crafts and culture. Now, people are tired of mass market, they want handmade things because behind those handmade things is a community. The people producing them are men and women. They are not machines. Those men and women have families. So, everything you buy is geared towards feeding a community. It is a business line you are supporting. And anything you do with your hands, there is detailed attention.
In our schools, art is dying. How many people study art again in our secondary schools? So, those are the things government needs to do. We need to create beauty and awareness. When you create awareness about a particular product to help generate interest in that product and the sky cannot even stop that product.
The truth is that our culture is dying and we must do everything to revive it.